Faulkner Architects perch Lookout House at the base of an extinct volcano in the US

One can ski right into this modern Californian holiday home set within the sloped, snowy terrain in Truckee, its concrete and glass form appearing as stacked cuboids and voids.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Aug 18, 2020

Constructed over a span of five years, the Lookout House by Faulkner Architects sits perched on the wintery landscape of Truckee in California, United States, at the base of a three million-year-old volcano. The alpine site’s geology influenced the design of the contemporary and brutalist house, appearing as a play of stacked cuboids and voids. Sparse, clean interiors, straight lines and glass openings continue throughout, a typical element of modern Californian houses. What’s more, one can ski directly into the holiday home through a narrow ski slot that cuts through it.

  • Lookout House nestled within a sloped, snowy landscape | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
    Lookout House nestled within a sloped, snowy landscape Image: Joe Fletcher
  • Stacked concrete cuboids and voids | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
    Stacked concrete cuboids and voids Image: Joe Fletcher

Led by architect Greg Faulkner, the practice planned the home across three zones – common areas, guest area and private rooms. The dusky exterior of the Lookout House provides relief from the visual noise of its surroundings, a stark contrast to the all-white backdrop. The orange-red glass affixed at the entrance references the colour of cooling magma, drawing from the site's geology and giving off a warm tint. This permeates into the interiors, bathing the entrance as well as the central stair with a scarlet glow.

  • The alpine site’s geology influences the design | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
    The alpine site’s geology influences the design Image: Joe Fletcher
    The orange-red glass fixed at the entrance | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
    The orange-red glass fixed at the entrance Image: Joe Fletcher
  • The scarlet glow continues inside | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
    The scarlet glow continues inside Image: Joe Fletcher

The stairs lead to a spacious gathering space that looks down to the scenic valley to the north, and up to the picturesque mountains on the south. The expansive bedrooms are concealed behind timber screens, buried into the north slope of the site, with the master suite located in the most private zone. The dwelling’s double height living and dining space features a built-in fireplace and a sleek kitchen, while the courtyard hosts a silky pool and an outdoor lounge. The deliberate choice of using muted, sleek furniture and subdued décor in its interior design supplements the chic personality of the Lookout House, training one’s eye to focus on the scenery outside.    

  • Entrance to the wood screened bedroom | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
    Entrance to the wood screened bedroom Image: Joe Fletcher
  • Double height living space | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
    Double height living space Image: Joe Fletcher

The rugged, sloped terrain offers quaint panoramic views of the home’s surroundings, heightened by the snow-covered Jeffrey pine, white fir trees and the distant horizon. Built for a North Californian family, the residential design employs 20-inch thick insulated concrete walls made from local sand and aggregate and a steel plated roof to withstand the cold. Floor to ceiling openings with structurally glazed sliding doors open up the space to the prevailing southwesterly breezes and bring in sunlight, while volcanic basalt and walnut floors add to the disciplined, minimal materiality of the space.

Pool flanked by concrete screens | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
Pool flanked by concrete screens Image: Joe Fletcher
Floor to ceiling glass opening | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
Floor to ceiling glass opening Image: Joe Fletcher

“Sustainability is addressed in this project with a focus on energy retention through the choice of materials and systems. Mass-heavy concrete walls and radiantly heated stone floors, an R80 insulated roof, enhanced glazing, and high-efficiency mechanical and lighting equipment minimise energy loss and use. The exterior of concrete and steel is fire resistant and low maintenance,” explain Faulkner Architects.

Sparse interiors and straight lines of the Californian home | Lookout House by Faulkner Architects | STIRworld
Sparse interiors and straight lines of the Californian home Image: Joe Fletcher

According to Faulkner, the architecture of the Lookout House does not reflect a singular concept or idea. “The design process is about an approach to problem solving on a difficult but epic alpine site. The completed place envelopes the continuous space of the slope up to the south sun and mountain top that has existed for millions of years,” he concludes.

Project Details

Name: Lookout House
Location: Truckee, California, United States
Year of completion: 2020
Architect: Faulkner Architects
Design team: Gregory Faulkner, Christian Carpenter, Jenna Shropshire, Gordon Magnin, Breanne Penrod, Darrell Linscott
Interior and Lighting Design: Concept Lighting Lab, LLC
Contractor: Rickenbach Development and Construction, Inc.
Civil Engineering: Shaw Engineering
Structural Engineering: CFBR Structural Group
Mechanical, Plumbing, Energy Modeling and Electrical Engineering: MSA Engineering Consultants

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